This is the real story.
On Friday, my stake had a retreat in Heber. The Sunday prior, I decided I was going to ride my bike to the campsite, and I invited a friend, Rick, to ride with me. Another friend agreed to provide support along the way if we needed it.
The ride is 38 miles, starting in south Provo and ending at Heber Valley Girls Camp. The first 34 miles are moderately tough–about 800-1000 feet of elevation gained, with some rolling hills. The last four miles include a 3000-foot elevation gain. So the last four miles are really hard.
I did most things I needed to in order to succeed. I ate well for most of the week and did several preparatory rides to get used to the distance. I practiced eating on the bike, riding at pace, resting, and recovering smartly.
I didn’t get as much sleep during the week as I should have.
Rick and I left home at 3 pm Friday afternoon. At a 13 mph pace, we aimed to arrive at the camp toward the end of dinner. (I knew Rick usually rides a bit slower than I do, so I was prepared for this idea.)
We started off well, but after the first hill (not difficult for me) I had to wait about three minutes for Rick to catch up. This process repeated for three more minor hills until we reached the halfway mark.
At that point, I offered Rick my Clif Bar–he had brought nothing to eat. He declined and led the next eight miles or so at a nice 18 mph clip. It was a good push and he did well with that second wind.
Our support car met us near the airport in Heber. Megan and the girls in her car provided water–I didn’t realize I should have included snacks in this.
I’m not used to stopping on my bike. I just keep pedaling until I arrive where I’m going. Stopping four times puts a damper on my ability to power through. This is why I tend to ride alone: I have only myself to rely on.
Rick bonked between the airport and the main intersection in Heber, so we rode about 9 mph from Heber to the church where the hill starts. Rick decided he was done, so along the way, I called another friend who had passed us to find Megan and send her down to pick up Rick.
I was going to climb into camp. I left Rick at the 34 mile mark.
The road to the camp had been paved many years previous. It was covered in gravel. Fairly soon after starting the hill, I dropped into my easiest gear.
This was the first major hill I’ve climbed this year. Perhaps my insistence I could do it was shortsighted. However, cycling has always been a confirmation of mental strength for me. I’ve never stopped before the end of a ride. I’ve always succeeded.
As I climbed the hill, thoughts went through me head. When is the top? Surely I’ve climbed a mile already. (I may rethink the use of a cycling computer, it doesn’t seem to help. I’ll finish when I finish.) wow this would be a beautiful climb if I weren’t so focused on the mantra “just keep pedaling.” Hopefully Rick didn’t die.
After I had been climbing for 25 minutes, I saw Megan driving down to get Rick. She yelled something that sounded like, “keep going, you’re nearly there.” I yelled, “at the church! At the church!” So she’d know where Rick was.
Turns out what she yelled was a lie. I climbed for another ten minutes before I seriously contemplated doing something I’ve never done: taking a break on the hill.
Breaks are dangerous. They kill momentum, and it takes effort to get started again. But I felt like I was at the end of my effort.
Every pedal stroke pushed me forward, but the gravel on the road reduced the purchase my tires had. Each pedal stroke was less than 75% effective.
More thoughts went through my head. Those cars are blowing by me. There’s a car behind me that could pick me up. Just keep pedaling; mega said it’s not much farther.
As the negative thoughts grew in number and volume, I took another break. I could see the final climb and the entrance to the camp.
But this is not a story of success.
I faced several switchbacks before the entrance to the camp. As I continued pedaling, more seemed to appear and the ones I was working on turned out to be longer than I thought. What I thought was only a mile left was slowly revealing itself as two.
Of a four mile climb.
I was finally done. The thoughts of needing help took over. I took both feet out of the pedals and just stood there. A few minutes later, Megan pulled up behind me, and I put the bike on the rack and rode the final mile and a quarter into camp, defeated.
Never before had such a short ride taken so long. Never before had I ridden with someone else who had bonked. Never before had I needed saving. Never had I failed to finish.
In the immortal words of Tastosis: I was as salty as Don Juan Pond. I was tilted beyond anything I’d ever experienced. I was pissed.